Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Turnbull commits hara-kiri

Malcolm Turnbull’s time runs out … London author savages Tony Blair … The Spectator attack on Assange backfires … Boris changes his tune on EU

What is it with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and taxation policy? His GST plan collapsed under universal criticism, he fled from tinkering with the negative gearing rort and now he’s made an utter fool of himself by suggesting double taxation – Federal and State.
Was this suicidal taxation plan written by his former Treasury leak, Gordon Grech? It certainly sounds like it.
Just think about it. Seven new taxation bureaucracies, one in every state and territory, with politicians in each capital competing to attract developers, mining conglomerates and foreign investors: fertile ground for immense corruption, political donations and backhanders. What an election platform – Vote for me and I’ll give you double taxation!
Turnbull’s Cabinet is in a state of stunned disbelief, backbenchers are in despair and most voters have run out of patience. Suddenly, Opposition leader Bill Shorten is back in contention.
So what’s wrong with Turnbull? I’ve previously described him as an arrogant oligarch with too many tickets on himself. He is so remote from the life of average citizens that he has little or no empathy with the lives of most voters. Anyone who witnessed his charmless role in the 1999 referendum on the Australian republic will know what I mean.
Turnbull is a privileged idler and dabbler. He made his millions through inheritance and taking investment advice from more canny mates from private schools and sophisticated insider traders like the late Kerry Packer, Neville Wran and Rene Rivkin.
“Hence he is without substance, as Paul Keating hints, because he has not done the intellectual hard yards,” as one of my readers observed, adding: “And most of his colleagues wish evil upon him.”
Right in the middle of all this, Tony Abbott’s alter ego and mental masseuse, Peta Credlin, has been recruited by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News (on what salary?) to cover the forthcoming federal election. Team Abbott has yet another ally on the payroll.
To sum up: Turnbull is imploding, Abbott is swaggering (again) and “Little Billy” Shorten is peeping over the battlements.

Tony Blair dissected

Author Tom Bower, the acclaimed London investigative journalist, has shredded the careers of self-made legends, including media moguls Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black, convicted and jailed perjurer Jeffrey Archer, Klaus Barbie, the infamous Nazi known as “the butcher of Lyon”, and financial tycoons, Lonrho’s Tiny Rowland, Mohamed al-Fayed (of Harrods fame), Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone and Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson.
His latest book called Broken Vows: Tony Blair: The Tragedy of Power, is a 650-page bucketing of the New Labour PM which will delight all those who regard Blair as a war criminal and a narcissistic fraud.
The fact that Blair regularly appears as a guest on ABC TV and radio provides embarrassing proof that the cultural cringe is alive and well in the Oz media class.
As Bower amply demonstrates, Blair’s career is so enmeshed in scandal and strife that it is difficult to understand how anyone can possibly take him seriously. Here are a couple of memorable vignettes:
1. On Christmas holiday in 1997 at the Seychelles palace of Richard Branson he composed a New Year’s message to the British people vowing that New Labour would “tackle the problems of poverty”.
2. Standing in his yellow and green underpants in front of a mirror at his No 10 Downing Street apartment, Blair says to his spin doctor Alistair Campbell, “How many prime ministers have a body like this?”
3. Blair gave seats in the Commons and life peerages in the House of Lords to party donors. Twenty-five of Blair’s 292 peers gave $70 million to the Labour Party.
4. He was the first serving prime minister to be formally interviewed by the police – on three occasions. He was cleared of any danger of prosecution in his last day in office in 2007.
London reviewers of Bower’s book have mercilessly criticised his bias against Blair. If you also believe that Blair deserves a more even-handed biography for his two election victories, his peace arrangements in the north of Ireland and Kosovo, progress on gay rights and the introduction of a minimum wage – then study his career after leaving No 10 Downing Street and you will find a money-grubbing egotist using his former status to become a multi-millionaire.

Yellow prick road

He pulled the jackpot when his war ally, President George Bush, invited him to join the “Quartet” to establish a peace process between the Israeli regime and the Palestinians. Blair was a colossal failure but he made millions from the appointment.
Another disgraceful episode involved an invitation to Blair to speak to a famine charity in Sweden for an exhausting 20 minutes. Blair demanded a fee of $650,000. The charity counter-offered $300,000. Blair refused.
Meanwhile he collected fees from notorious dictators who became his private clients: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.
He defended his money-grubbing with a Blairite flourish: “We do business and philanthropy. The purpose is not to make money; it is to make a difference.”
Earlier this month Blair, his wife Cherie and their children were reported to own a property empire worth more than $60 million, including 10 houses and 27 apartments.
When the property assets are added to other investments, the Blairs have a total net worth of more than $130 million.
“Blair has earned tens of millions through a combination of consultancies, public speaking and offering himself as an intermediary on corporate deals,” wrote one reviewer wrote. “Anything goes, if good money is to be made.”
He demanded $200,000 for a speech at a VIP banquet in the city of Dongguan in China, telling guests: “The reason I am here is because I was told everything happening here is amazing. Dongguan’s future is immeasurable.”
One local newspaper was so incensed by Blair’s tosh that it commented that the ex-PM was interested only in “digging for gold” and “money-sucking”.
Recently he took a private jet from London to Florida to deliver a speech for a fee of $100,000 to the International Sanitary Supply Association – a perfect client in Blair’s business portfolio.
Now that convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic has been sentenced to 40 years’ jail, surely it’s time the International Criminal Tribunal turned its attention to Blair, George Bush and John Howard?
If they can’t convict Blair for war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe they can get him for mega-fraud and industrial scale larceny.

Assange haunts them

Britain’s oldest Tory magazine, The Spectator, decided to commission a hatchet job on Australian political refugee Julian Assange in its glossy stablemate publication Spectator Life.
It duly appeared accompanied by a rubbishing of the Frontline Club where journalists and photographers gather to meet, debate, drink and eat. James Kirchick described the Paddington club as a “den of swagger and Leftie self-regard”, a “watering hole and performance venue for a kind of blowhard who might boast that he personally had liberated Kabul from the Taliban”.
Frontline’s founder Vaughan Smith, a former Grenadier Guard officer of substantial means, counter-punched by publishing emails between Spectator editor Toby Young and Kirchick.
After promising to deliver a “nice, gossipy” attack-dog piece, Kirchick was asked to focus on “Vaughan Smith, the owner of the Frontline Club, [who] has a bit-part in that story as Assange’s bitch. He put up the bail money that Assange pissed away when he ‘defected’ to Ecuador. Yet he’s still out there spinning for him.”
In exposing the internal Spectator correspondence on his website, Smith wrote: “The Frontline Club has no links to him (Assange) or WikiLeaks. All of us at the Frontline Club do our best to promote independent journalism, and I am particularly proud of our work supporting freelancers and fixers.” (War reporters’ term for Afghan and Arab translators, guides and researchers).
If you hadn’t guessed already, now you know how right-wing magazines (and newspapers) conduct their “journalism”. Independent never.

Quotable quotes

“These, by the way, were the people (bankers) who engineered the biggest financial disaster of the last century.”
– Tory MP Boris Johnson – and aspiring prime minister – now leading the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union, March 17, 2016

“It is time for British politicians to say it loud and clear and in unison: we need bankers, my friends, we need the political establishment in this country to stop slagging off a sector that is utterly crucial to the British economy and the current system of global capitalism. London needs banks and it’s time to stop knocking them.”
– Tory London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson in his London Telegraph column in 2012